Democrats debate in House races

Candidates tout their similar views but varied backgrounds.
Friday, July 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:40 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Even the Democratic candidates for the 24th and 25th District House races admitted it’s been tough to distinguish the differences among them.

“We’re all good, progressive, Democratic candidates ... so wherein lies the difference?” Mike Blum, a candidate for the 25th District, said in his opening remarks at a Thursday night debate leading up to the Aug. 3 primary.

The differences became clear as candidates touted their experiences and background, though they echoed many ideas and stances on issues.

Greg Casey, 24th District candidate, said he plans to put his 30-odd years of teaching state politics at MU into practice, focusing on Missouri’s fiscal health, which he said is threatening its public services.

“We’re allowing programs to decline or even deteriorate, especially secondary and elementary education,” Casey said. “Our schools are receiving approximately 87 or 88 percent funding and so schools are having to improvise and cut, and students aren’t getting the education they deserve.”

His opponent in the primary, Travis Ballenger, said there is a need for more small business owners in Jefferson City. Ballenger is the owner of

Sofas Plus stores in Columbia, Springfield and Jefferson City. He advocated stricter regulations on corporate taxes that favor large industries over small businesses and taxes that place the burden on the individual over business.

Casey agreed, calling the flat tax system for incomes greater than $9,000 antiquated and unfair. Both candidates supported a progressive tax.

One of the two will face the winner of the Republican primary in which Carole Iles and Ed Robb are running.

“I agree with my opponent,” was not in short supply in the 25th District debate while the candidates called themselves the “Fab 5.” Judy Baker, Lara Underwood, Russel P. Breyfogle Jr., D. Duane Dimmitt and Blum are vying for the spot on the ballot in November to challenge Republican Joel Jeffries.

The “Fab 5” can also be applied to the topics addressed at the debates: education, fair taxes, health care, corporate taxes and gay marriage legislation.

Baker relied on her expertise as a health care administrator to support improving the “quality, access and cost containment” of health care and engaging competition in the prescription drug industry. “We’re paying for the research and development fees for the rest of the world,” she said.

Health care was a prominent topic, referred to both in terms of illegal immigrants living in Missouri and health insurance pools. Blum said that the problem with immigration is that immigrants are afraid to reach out for services like health care and education. The five candidates agreed that residency should not be a factor in health care availability.

“Children especially don’t have a choice,” Underwood said. “We have to fund health care for children regardless of whether they’re legal or not.”

Baker and Breyfogle replied that there are agencies that have the mechanisms to provide care.

“I think we need to totally fund those social agencies,” Breyfogle said. “Such as hiring social workers and giving them a pay differential if they’re bilingual.”

The five candidates also expressed support for marijuana for medical purposes, following a question from the audience.

Baker and Underwood said drugs that are much more potent have been legalized for medical use.

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